Train Them Up
An ancient proverb says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
I was reading through a set of Hebrew proverbs the other day when I came across the one mentioned above. Immediately what came to mind was that altering that proverb only slightly makes it applicable to construction business owners. Here, let me show you.
If you alter the proverb to read, “Train up an employee in the way he should go, and when he is mature he will not depart from it,” you can see what I mean.
At the Beginning
Let’s break down the altered proverb piece by piece. The first word in the sentence, train, is an excellent place to start.
The Oxford Dictionary identifies the word as a verb. (An action word.) And the first definition is: teach a person a particular skill or type of behavior through practice and instruction over time.
Also, The Oxford Dictionary supplies these words that are similar to train:
give lessons to
Therefore, the small word, train, has a lot packed into it. It takes action on the part of both the trainer and the person being trained. Simple enough – one is teaching, and the other is learning – through practice – over time.
The next step in analyzing the altered proverb is looking at the word, employee.
I took a few minutes to look at my handy Thesaurus and discovered that the word employee has several synonyms. But the one that stands out is representative. Employees are representatives of your construction business.
For fun, while strolling around in the Thesaurus, I glanced down at the antonyms of the word employee. Whoa, wait! The two antonyms that practically jumped off the page were hindrance and obstruction.
We can express the opposite of the word employee as someone who gets in the way, causes trouble, or nixes the work. Too bad there is no word to express the notion of unemployee. Well, perhaps there is – let’s call it fired.
Now that we know who deserves to be trained – employees who are representatives of your construction company – we can move on to the next part of the altered proverb.
In the Way He Should Go
What way? What are we talking about here? I had to return to the original proverb to understand better what “the way” means. I’m no Hebrew scholar, but luckily, I know a few people who are. And I learned that “the way” has two distinct yet similar meanings poured into it.
Since the original proverb is directed at parents, it is easier to understand the two meanings from that point of view.
The First Meaning
The first meaning can be seen when a parent says to a child, “These are the rules. This is how you behave because you are a part of this family. These are the values we hold. This is what is expected of you.”
This first meaning is easily translated into what you expect of your employees. You want them to know the rules, behave well, and uphold your company’s values.
The Second Meaning
Now, this is where it gets interesting. This second meaning relies heavily on the words “should go.” If your first thought is, “Well, I thought we already covered that,” you’re not alone. At first glance, it seems the first meaning should suffice. But the second meaning (again taken from a parent’s perspective) involves seeing where each child’s natural skills, propensities, and talents lie.
For example, does the child run onto the soccer field with enthusiasm? Does she have heroes in the soccer world? Does she listen to the coach at all turns? Will she take one for the team? Perhaps, making her attend piano lessons and practice piano daily wastes her time, holds her back, and keeps her from doing what her natural abilities lead her to do well – play soccer.
Translating the “should go” for your construction company means paying attention to what your employees should be doing because they already have a talent or natural ability.
You’ve heard the phrase, “He’s a natural-born leader.” And you know what it means. Some people lead well, others teach well, and others perform their tasks well. Don’t get them mixed up.
He Will Not Depart from It
Oh wow! What does this portion of the proverb mean to today’s construction business owner? No matter how much we wish it meant employee longevity, it doesn’t.
Remember, the original proverb is directed at parents. Part of a parent’s task is to train their children. And you must agree that parental training isn’t about keeping children around forever. It is about giving children the tools to function well in society, no matter where they go or how long they reside with their parents.
In simple terms, what parents get out of the proper training of their children is the satisfaction of knowing they’ve done their job well. But look around; well-trained children remain a part of “the family” even when they set off independently.
Some well-trained employees will rise through the ranks, lead the team, and be happy with sticking around. They may become part of your legacy when you sell them your business. Others will go to other companies. Still, others will start their own businesses. In each instance, if they’ve been “trained as they should go,” the proverb holds.
Reflection: Are you training your employees in the way they should go?
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